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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read history of the United States, 13 April 2013
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This review is from: The Untold History of the United States (Kindle Edition)
This is a socio-political history of the United States of America in the 20th and 21st centuries, but not as its leaders would like. Instead, it is a searing indictment of how, in the name of the people, they have engaged in a string of disastrous wars, in South America, Asia, and elsewhere, often launched in violation of American laws, that have cost trillions of dollars and have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians; the imprisonment without trial, and the torture and abuse, of numerous prisoners, contrary to both American and international law; the killing of alleged terrorists by drone attacks, regardless of the `collateral' deaths of civilians; and the establishment of more than 1000 military bases worldwide. At the same time, it is a country with an enormous disparity between the rich and the poor, increasing because of advantageous tax laws, where the former own a huge fraction of the wealth of the country, out of all proportion to their numerical size; where vast sums of money can be legally contributed to political campaigns in order to win power and influence; but where the national infrastructure is collapsing and educational standards are low; where there is no national health service (unique among developed countries); whose economy is in severe deficit and life can continue as it is only because China is still willing to buy US Government bonds. It is a story of lies and deceit, bullying smaller nations, including threats of nuclear war, and sheer arrogance. It is not an edifying story, but Stone and Kuznick tell it brilliantly.

The format is chronological, with each chapter focusing on the President then in power, and the collective of political and military people gathered around him. It is a constant source of wonder that for a country with several hundred million inhabitants, the President has so often turned out to be a nonentity, often without any real understanding of world politics, economics, or just about anything that a President should know about (including sometimes even elementary geography). All too often, they have taken actions that were clearly wrong from the evidence of history. An example is the disastrous invasion of Afghanistan, when the experience of Vietnam showed that a war against a peasant force, fighting on its homeland and unafraid to die, is unwinnable. The hypocrisy of successive administrations is staggering. High sounding speeches about `nation building', saving American lives etc., have been used to cover the true reasons of many American interventions, which are hysterical anti-Communism and the wealth that comes from control over natural resources, oil and minerals principally. Even Obama, who came to power full of promise that things would change, has turned out to be as repressive as his predecessors in both military matters (increasing troop numbers in Afghanistan before finally deciding `enough was enough') and just as weak in his resolve to tackle fundamental problems at home (for example, the failure to establish a health service, downgrading the aims of gun control legislation, and the harsh pursuit of `leakers' of embarrassing truths).

There are errors in the narrative and some positive things that should have been there are not (the sections on WW2 concentrate on the role of the atomic bomb), but if only a fraction of what it does contain is true, and I have no reason to believe it is not (there are over 100 small-type pages of references to back up practically every statement) this is a book everyone interested in learning from recent historical events (and that should be everyone) should read. The photo on p599 of a five-year old Iraqi girl, crying desperately on the ground just after her parents were killed in error by an American patrol when the family were driving at night, with the boots and rifle of a soldier standing over her visible, says it all.
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Brian R. Martin
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Location: London, UK

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